Winter

A blanket of snow covers the gardens now, bird baths turned into ice, evergreen boughs are frosted white; winter is here. Even in winter the garden is beautiful. Annabelle and Limelight hydrangea, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, Joe-Pye weed, sedum, asters, and grasses are all standing in my garden now providing food for the birds. I love the simplicity of dried seed heads covered with snow. I haven’t seen any visitors yet, but I added a bird bath in the boxwood garden that can be plugged in to keep the water from freezing.

In winter the garden rests and so do I; no more gardening chores. I catch up on reading. I reread my gardening journal from past months. It’s like a diary and contains names of plants I liked that I want to repeat in vases or containers, I have notes on projects that we’ve completed such as: creating a vegetable garden using raised beds and on projects I’d like to do. I also read gardening books and keep notes from the books in my journal on important information such as: when and how to cut back certain plants and attractive plant combinations I want to remember, there’s also a section in the back of my journal that lists my garden resources.

Last winter one of the books I read was: Suzy Bales’ Down-to-earth Gardener. Suzy’s rules for gardening made me smile: “When in doubt, sow alyssum. If you don’t know it, don’t pull it. Wise gardeners plant common flowers.” In spring I have to remember to be patient. Many plants reseed themselves, sometimes transported from one garden to another by birds or animals; sometimes I pull out green shoots then later discover they were potential flowers.

Two new gardening books I will read this winter are: The Pruning Book by Lee Reich which contains color photos and detailed drawings of how to prune trees, bushes, vines and plants and The Layered Garden by David L. Culp. David’s book has beautiful photographs of his Brandywine Cottage garden, in all seasons, showing us how to weave different plants and have layers of interest every month of the year.

A Garden of One’s Own by Elsa Bakalar is a book I treasure; it is one of the books I use as a reference. Years ago I was lucky enough to meet Elsa and visit her gardens. I went with my garden mentor, Janie. One thing I learned from Elsa was how important compost is when planting. Every spring I put a few shovels of compost mixed with organic fertilizer around each plant; and I add compost to the bottom of every planting hole before I add the plant. Elsa Bakalar was born in England, taught school in New York City and later lived in Massachusetts. I have fond memories of meeting Elsa and seeing her garden; she was a master gardener and her artistic gardens were charming.

Today winter snow is shimmering under a robin’s egg blue sky, but winter in Connecticut can be long and snowy; flowers and candles warm even the coldest day. xxoo

Click on image to enlarge.

Happy 2015!

When the heavenly, almond scent filled the entire kitchen, I knew my giant muffin was ready to eat. I pulled down the oven door, slid out the rack and carefully placed the mouthwatering pastry on my plate. Just as I was ready to take a bite, an email from my Jazzercise instructor appeared in my inbox. Drat! How did she know?

When I take the tree down and all the decorations, then I start watching what I’m eating. So, tomorrow the tree comes down and all the decorations. But today…

I love the possibilities a New Year brings. I look ahead anticipating the unknown with optimism. In October 2014, I leapt off into the unknown and started my blog. It was a goal I had for a long while. Blogging is a wonderful journey; you get to travel to many places making new friends along the way.

This year I want to learn more about: pruning shrubs and trees, my camera’s many features, and organic vegetable gardening; growing more, rather than paying for them. I also want to write more blog posts each week and read more books than I read in 2014.

May your New Year be filled with hopes and dreams that come true for you! xxoo

Please enjoy a slideshow I made for you of photos taken, in past years, in fall, winter, spring and summer.

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Christmas Wish

God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.

~ J.M. Barrie IMG_2337 IMG_0960 IMG_0981 IMG_1366 IMG_1105IMG_1372 IMG_2487 IMG_2113IMG_2886 Wishing you a Christmas filled with memories that warm the heart. xxoo

Happy Birthday Mama!

She met him at the Beacon Theatre in New York City; at the Saturday matinee. He was tall, dark and handsome. She was 18 years old; an irish beauty with long, auburn hair and hazel eyes. He was as debonair as Cary Grant with a voice like Frank Sinatra; with his chivalrous ways, he stole her heart. That was the beginning of my parents’ love affair that lasted a lifetime.

My mama’s birthday was yesterday. She would have been 86 years old. She passed away this past June. For the past six years dementia robbed her of her life; the forgetfulness started slowly, but eventually took over.

The last time I visited my mama I lifted her soft hands, and gently wrapped my fingers into hers. “Remember Mama when you brushed my hair into a pony tail every day before school, and when you tucked me in at night, you always pulled the blankets up to my chin, and reminded me to say my prayers.” She smiled at me, but when I looked into her hollow eyes, I knew she didn’t know who I was and she did not remember.

For many people the holidays can arouse unhappy feelings in the heart, but I am not sad; I have all the cherished memories of grand conversations I had with my mama. I believe she is with my daddy in a better place; a place where she can remember the joy of Christmas.

Happy Birthday Mama!

My mama and daddy at their wedding.

My mama and Daddy on their wedding day.

Bringing the Outside In

My favorite Christmas decorations are from the garden. Every year I cut Winterberry branches and bring them indoors. But this year… my husband said, “The birds are eating the berries, you should spray them with lacquer.” Whoever heard of spraying Winterberries with lacquer? I didn’t listen. And then… the Winterberries were all gone; eaten by the birds. So, I bought Winterberry branches at a nursery.

I also cut evergreen branches and layer different sizes on the mantle and in vases. I hang wreaths using wide, satin ribbons, in the kitchen and living room windows. The baker’s rack in the kitchen holds pots of Amaryllis, Poinsettia, Christmas cactus, Cyclamen, and vases of Paperwhite bulbs. My decorations are simple, yet elegant.

a center piece with evergreen branches

a center piece with evergreen branches

our dining room

our dining room

the mantle in our living room, the candles are battery operated

the mantle in our living room, the candles are battery operated

the baker's rack in our kitchen

the baker’s rack in our kitchen

wreaths dressed up with satin ribbons

wreaths dressed up with satin ribbons

Winterberry branches in a clear vase on our dining room buffet

Winterberry branches in a clear vase on our dining room buffet

precious handmade ornament made by my daughter

a cherished ornament made by my daughter when she was young

another favorite made by pre-school hands, a glittered bell

another favorite made long ago by pre-school hands; a glittered bell

waiting for Santa

waiting for Santa

First Snowfall

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Photography, alone of the arts, seems perfected to serve the desire humans have for a moment – this very moment – to stay.

~ Sam Abell

My Tribute to Eddie Lee May

Do you have blogs you love? The ones that make you smile every time you see a new post in your inbox? I love Lee May’s Gardening Life blog! I love Lee’s style of writing, his poetic voice; his love of mosses and stones, and the ever changing garden.

In the Fall Lee was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t want to believe it. Yesterday, I received another post saying he had passed on December 3, 2014. All around me the world stopped as I let the sad news sink in. I had been praying for him, hoping he would recover.

Lee May had an extensive career in writing. He was a journalist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Los Angeles Times for more than twenty-five years. He was a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and recipient of many awards. Lee wrote two books: In My Father’s Garden and Gardening Life.

Favorite quotes from: Gardening Life
“As far back as I can remember, I have loved and appreciated gardening and life.”

I knew I had found a kindred spirit when I found out Lee loved mosses. “There is something retro about mosses. They are simple plants, recalling simpler times. Their uncomplicated nature enhances the role of a garden, any garden, as a pathway to calm and peace.”

Lee loved stones and had a collection of them in his garden and in his home. “Like all gardens, mine is ever changing and becoming, but it is held steady by stone. Stone offers the most strength, the most constancy. Stone is the closest to permanence. Many monuments and places of reflection are built of stone. People are drawn to these places to touch the stone and feel its power. And its peace, which rises from its strength.”

My heart goes out to Lee’s wife, Lyn, and his children and grandchildren. May they find comfort in knowing Lee’s words touched many people’s lives in powerful ways. He was a gifted writer and he will be always be remembered.

Now, every time I touch velvety mounds of moss or hold a stone in my hand I will think of Lee.

Dressed for Christmas

I love the month of December… winter comes and brings lazy snowflakes, hot chocolate and warm fires. December also brings Christmas and one of the things I love about Christmas is decorating the inside of our home and the outside. I filled the urns by the front door with evergreen branches and holly cut from our property. We bought green roping from the grocery store and I attached lights to it using wire. Then we hung it over the door and added a wreath. I couldn’t forget the iron gate, the urn in the boxwood garden, the potting shed and the lamppost.

I’d love to hear about your holiday decorating!

Thanksgiving Prayer

I still remember the basket. I was the first one to answer the door. “Is your mother home?” the man asked. “Just a minute,” I replied. I ran to get my mom. “We’d like to give this basket to you and your family. It’s from the church.” All of that for us? I couldn’t believe it. “That’s very kind of you, but I’m sure there’s someone who needs it more than we do,” said my mom. I never gave the basket much thought after we closed the door. I had all I needed: warm food, warm bed, a house full of siblings and loving parents.

Thank-you for my mom who taught me to take joy in what I already have.

Thank-you for my husband who completes me, and for my daughters who are kind and beautiful and who remind me every day that being a mom is a gift.

Thank-you for my older sister and my six younger brothers, my sister-in-laws and brother-in laws, nieces and nephews, and cousins; each a fiber in a tapestry of love.

Thank-you for my hands that work the soil, my eyes that notice the velvety mounds of moss, my ears that hear the cooing of morning doves, the taste of spring peas I grew myself, and the deep inside feeling of bliss I get each time I’m in the garden.

And Thank-you for my readers; who take the time to read my words.

The Challenge

Katherine Tracy, owner of Avant Gardens, recently posted something on her blog that caught my attention: The Slow Flower Challenge. Katherine attended a lecture given by Debra Prinzing. Debra spoke about her book: Slow Flowers. The book explains the importance of using flowers that are available locally rather than purchasing imported flowers. Debra is challenging herself to do that for a year.  Katherine liked the idea, so she too took on the challenge and will use plant materials from her garden. Click on the link above to see the beautiful display Katherine created using plant materials from her garden, and read her entire post. 
I agree with Debra and Katherine, and decided to also take on the challenge. Our gardens are a valuable resource that we should not ignore. With clippers in hand I went into the garden, cut branches from trees and shrubs, and snipped flowers and berries. I loved the challenge and come December, I will once again be in the garden.

These are the 9 plants I used:

My flower arrangement:

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